I have been busy over the past 6-9 months building online courses to make it easier for family historians like you to find their Irish Family History. I am building the course content on death records and though it was worth sharing some details with you.
We have a tendency to rely a lot on online records and forget about what is offline. Imagine being a genealogist or family historian 50 years ago. I reckon they were very fit traipsing all over the place looking for records in old indexes and books.
In the course, I talk about other great sources for death records. I’m sure you have found on many occasions that you couldn’t find a death record for your ancestor. This is not an uncommon problem. It is estimated that 10-15% of deaths in the 1860s were not recorded. In situations like this, you have to think outside the box.
In your search for some evidence of the death of your ancestor, funeral home records are generally not the first, or second place you would think of searching. In actual fact, it’s rare that family historians think of going down this path of research. However, on two occasions when I was trying to find the death and burial of my ancestors, getting the funeral home record put the final pieces of the puzzle together.
Here is a summary from this section of the course with a practical example.
There is no full listing of all the funeral homes and undertakers that ever existed in Ireland. But there are lots that exist today that existed a hundred plus years ago.
Funeral homes operate a Day Book, which is in essence a diary record, of all funerals on a given day. The Day Books are the records you are looking for. In one example, I could not find the burial record for my Great Grandmother Julia O’Farrell (mentioned above). It took me 3 years to find her. I had her death certificate so I knew when she died but could not find her grave. Thinking outside the box, I contacted 3 funeral homes in the vicinity of where she died in Limerick. One of the funeral homes, Griffith’s Funeral Home contacted me and sent me a copy of the Day Book for Thursday 8th August 1940 and Friday 9th August 1940.
The detail in the record is great as shows that she got a great send-off. For her removal to the St Michael’s Church it says ‘Julia M. O’Farrell, Died 7, Aged 65 years RIP, Coffin, habit gone (means her habit was collected by family to dress her in), Hearse and 2 cags (carriages) To 1 Ballinacurra to St Michael’s Church 6oc (6 o’clock)’. The entry on the 9th August states ‘Motor Hearse St Michael’s Church to Enniscorthy 9oc £23.00 Mrs O’Farrell’. This was the information I was looking for i.e. to Enniscorthy. So, this pointed me back to Enniscorthy to find her burial place.
The internet has it’s flaws but trying to find a funeral home is easy by just doing a web search. I was lucky in this instance that Griffith’s Funeral Home, who have been around since the 1860s, were so obliging. I always say, just ask. 99.999% of people love to help you in your research.